Green Patch: Planting Your First Herbs

Part three of an ongoing series, Kathleen Halloran provides advice for beginning gardeners planting herbs outdoors.

| April/May 2001

Question: I’ve bought a new house and want to plant my first large herb garden this spring. Where do I start? (continued) 

Answer: This is the third in a series, and if you’ve been following along, you’ve done the preliminary planning and you’ve got your soil dug up, loosened, weed-free, amended, and ready to go. Now’s the time for the best part—the plants!

You know what you want to plant and where you’re going to get them, whether it’s a local garden center with a good selection of herbs, a mail-order supplier from the pages of this magazine, divisions from friends’ gardens, or probably a variety of sources.

As you get each little potted plant, treat it tenderly at the outset. Let it get used to the outside world gradually by first putting it in a sheltered spot during the day and bringing it in at night, then leaving it out for longer periods, moving it a little closer each day to the conditions that exist where you want to plant it. If you take a plant from a pampered environment and move it immediately into a sunny, windy yard, it will struggle mightily, but after this gradual hardening-off process, it will stand up to anything it’s likely to encounter on its own. Keep the potting mix moist.

As you get more plants, you can nestle them together in flats to make them easier to carry, but don’t let water collect in the bottom of the flat. Most herbs don’t like their roots sitting in water.

Start up a list of your plants to help you organize yourself at planting time, jotting down what you know of what they need—sun exposure, growing space, their eventual height and spread. A list like this is a ready reference at planting time for what herbs you can group together according to their needs and how far apart to plant them.

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